Hackers – 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)

HackersCapturing the anarchistic spirit of early cyberculture, Hackers became an underground hit, inspiring music and fashion for the emerging culture and has even been hailed as prophetic in its use of computers and hacking.  With a pulsating electronica score by Simon Boswell that includes songs from The Prodigy, Orbital and Underworld,  Hackers helped launch the careers of Academy Award-winner Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) and Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), and features Penn Jillette (Penn & Teller), Jesse Bradford (Bring it On, Romeo + Juliet), Matthew Lillard (She’s All That, Scooby Doo), Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme), Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) and Marc Anthony.  “This Is Our World Now… The World of The Electron And The Switch, The Beauty of The Baud.”  — The Mentor, “The Hacker’s Manifesto”.  A highly stylized cyberpunk exploitation fantasy, Hackers is a joyous ride through ‘90s cyberpunk subculture. On August 18th, 2015, this riveting look at an intriguing world makes its Blu-ray debut with Shout! Factory’s release of Hackers: 20th Anniversary Edition.  

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While practicing the tricks of the trade, a neophyte “hacker” accomplishes the nearly impossible: he hacks the highly secured computer at the Ellingson Mineral Corporation. But in doing so, he unknowingly taps into a high-tech embezzling scheme masked by a computer virus with the potential to destroy the world’s ecosystem! And when the young hacker and his pals are targeted for the crime, the group must launch a massive cyberspace attack—one that will hopefully clear their names and prevent ecological disaster.

Yeah, its probably been 19-20 years since I’ve seen this film, making me very eager to revisit it on this Blu-ray.  Overall, I found Iain’s Softley’s film somewhat of a fun trip back.  There are some things this film was very ahead of its time on (stuff that critics at the time called “far fetched”) and some things it got very wrong.  I found it best to visit the film as if its in some future dimension all on its own.  With that in mind, the film does have and play by its own sort of set of rules it establishes.

One thing you can’t deny Hackers is style.  This film has its own sort of sense of it.  The clothing is some weird mixture of Back to the Future Part II‘s 2015 look with a hint of Blade Runner.  We must remember that this film is 4 years before The Matrix would come along and make this stuff less wild and more “cool” that would influence and put its foot into the outside world by actually catching on beyond the movies.  The music in the film is also one bringing electronica, techno and house music to the forefront as it really wasn’t too prominent at the time.  And no matter what kinda wicked hair cut or clothing you put on Angelina Jolie, damn, does that woman make it look good.

Beyond Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie, there are a lot of people in this film.  Felicity Huffman makes a quick appearance as a lawyer at the beginning of the film.  Fisher Stevens and Lorraine Bracco may have been the biggest names in this film at the time of release.  We have pre-Scream Matthew Lillard, which also means 90s Matthew Lillard.  And as always, he’s one tough pill to swallow.  Wendell Pierce is one of the most fun people to see play around here as, you guessed it, some sort of law enforcing official.

Hackers isn’t a perfect movie, and I don’t think it was completely misjudged back in 1995, though I believe its better than it was given credit for.  As a cult film now, and 20 years removed, its a fun, unique thriller in its own right because it crafts its own world.  Its also one of the first big computer-heavy thrillers we were supplied with.  That same year we were given the Sandra Bullock thriller The Net which has aged badly and is more boring than humorous.  Whether it be dropping hack knowledge or something incredibly silly like Fisher Stevens’ “The Plague” getting place to place via skateboard (Seriously, there is a disk exchange between he and Johnny Lee Miller in the film that should have you rolling and its played dead serious), this movie turns out to be plenty of fun because of how wild it decided to be.  Definitely something interesting, silly and fun to revisit.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Gotta admit, this being a niche vintage 90s film (a lot of times these don’t port over too well), I was taken by complete surprise at how good this image looks.  The image is bold, full and pretty well defined.  Its as sharp as it could muster and detail is pretty abundant all the way around.

Depth:  The dimensional work is pretty impressive, especially in the CGI “hacking” sequences.  The movement of characters is smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels:  Blacks look to be accurate and no crushing witnessed or detail badly hidden (aside from intended shadowing).

Color Reproduction:  Colors pop pretty damn good.  The styles feature some wild coloring on the clothing and everything looks bold and striking without and bleeding.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent.  Facial detail is impressive during close ups and medium shots.  You can make out wrinkles, acne covered by makeup, stubble and blemishes.

Noise/Artifacts:  Pretty clean transfer, maybe some grain or a spec here and there.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  This 2.0 track more than does the trick here.  The audio sounds nicely clean and uncompressed.  Sound effects are distinct and naturally volumed for a terrific experience.  The vocal track, score/music and sound effects are all woven in a balanced fashion into the mix and sound free and loose of one another.  Shout! Factory does a terrific job with their 2.0 mixes and this one is up there with the best of them.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue has a nice presence, sounding clean, clear and plenty audible at all times.

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The cover is reversible, with the other side containing the original poster art.

The Keyboard Cowboys: A Look Back At Hackers (HD, 1:03:55) – A 3-part documentary looking back at Hackers including all-new interviews with director Iain Softley, cast members Fisher Stevens, Matthew Lillard and Penn Jillette, visual effects artist Peter Chiang, wardrobe designer Roger Burton, hacking consultants Nicholas Jarecki and Emmanuel Goldstein and film critic Mark Kermode.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:36) 

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Hack the planet with this nice little Blu-ray the good people at Shout! Factory have put together in lieu of Hackers 20th anniversary.  The film is definitely a fun one to look back at and enjoy for things it got right, wrong and some of its silliness.  Its a film that kind of sets its own world, rules and has a lot of fun with them.  This Blu-ray looks and sounds marvelous.  While the list of bonus materials looks a bit shy, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Short of a Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie presence, that 1 hour plus documentary on the film is absolute dynamite and reason to purchase this alone.  Don’t hack this one from the Torrents, spend your money and put this Blu-ray in your collection.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

1 Response to “Hackers – 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Funk

    So what I really want to know, is why no surround mix? Why are we stuck with 2.0! The 5.1 mix was really fun, not sure why they’ve opted for 2.0 🙁